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Number of Babies Born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in Tennessee Soars

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The number of babies born to mothers addicted to opioids or anti-anxiety medication in Tennessee is soaring, according to the Associated Press. These babies suffer the effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome, such as tremors, abdominal pain, incessant crying and rapid breathing. In extreme cases, they also experience seizures.

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville treated 33 babies for drug dependence in 2008. That number is expected to jump to 320 this year, the AP notes. In most cases, mothers of the babies abused prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, Valium and Xanax.

Tennessee is believed to be the first state that requires all health care facilities to report all cases of babies born dependent on drugs, officials say. They estimate almost 1,200 babies were born dependent on drugs in the state in 2010 and 2011.

Every hour, a baby is born in the United States with symptoms of opioid withdrawal, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found the number of pregnant women who are addicted to opioids, and the number of infants born with opioid withdrawal symptoms, has jumped in the past decade. An estimated 13,500 babies are born with withdrawal symptoms each year in the United States. Many babies who experience these symptoms must be hospitalized for weeks.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner is a member of a group advocating for the Food and Drug Administration to add a warning on prescription drug bottles about the dangers of taking drugs during pregnancy.

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